Masters of the Met: THAT Dress Makes a Comeback

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Metropolitan Museum of Art decided that this season they would offer the public a crash course in fashion history with Masterworks: Unpacking Fashion. The exhibit, displayed in the Anna Wintour Costume Institute, showcases significant acquisitions the Met has acquired over the years, ranging from 18th century fashions to haute couture.

As guests descend down the staircase into the Costume Institute, they are first greeted by a Viktor & Rolf ball gown made from tulle. The piece sets the stage for the fashion timeline that patrons are taken through.

Small, regal dresses are first on display on the left dating from the eighteenth century. Notable details like lace, gold thread and hand-stitched embroidery remind viewers of the extreme technicality that went into these opulent dresses. A fashion house highly noted for their elaborate designs was The House of Worth, with several of their pieces on display at the exhibit. Although the House of Worth saw decline at the turn of the twentieth century, there was no denying their elaborate, regal pieces and their love for a well-fitted corset.

In need of an opera coat? One of the first pieces to go against the traditions of women’s clothing construction in the 1930s came from Paul Poiret. His freely constructed silhouettes put him on the map, and became a trend that would forever change the face of fashion.

Then, of course, how do you forget some of the Met’s most major acquisitions, such as those from the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibit.

An orange blazer with swallows over it and one of his signature butterfly dresses juxtapose each other side-by-side.

There is even a tweed pink Chanel number that was a gift to the Costume Institute from none other than Vogue‘s empress in charge, Anna Wintour.

The piece de resistance of the entire exhibit though: the Versace safety pin dress. Yes, that same Versace safety pin dress Elizabeth Hurley wore when she accompanied Hugh Grant to the premiere of Four Weddings and a Funeral in 1994. It was the dress that put Versace on the map and catapulted the brand to household name status, otherwise known as THAT dress.

While there were some eyebrows raised over the Met doing a curated selection of things they have acquired, versus and exhibit centered around a particular theme or person, they successfully managed to pull it off. Andrew Bolton was smart to take the approach of making it into a fashion timeline, versus just putting some works up that appeared to be his favorite picks from the archives. For those who haven’t been lucky enough to see all of the Costume Institute’s best exhibits, they finally have a chance to get a little taste of each one from the past several years.

Masterworks: Unpacking Fashion will be on exhibit until February 5, 2017.

Visit The Met’s website at


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by Debbie BancroftPhotographed by Griffin Lipson and Hunter Abrams/